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Board Game Mechanics – Auctions & Bidding

The auction or bidding mechanic in board games refers to a system in which players bid for items, resources, or privileges within the game. The goal of the mechanic is typically to allow players to compete for valuable in-game assets or to establish turn order.

In an auction, players make bids in a sequential manner, with each player either increasing the bid or passing. The auction continues until only one player remains and wins the item being auctioned. The winning player must pay the final bid price in exchange for the item.

Bidding mechanics can take many forms, including open bidding, sealed bidding, dutch auction, english auction, turn order until pass, and more. The specific rules of each type of bidding mechanism can vary greatly between games and can greatly affect the strategy and flow of the game.

Auction mechanics can add an element of competition and player interaction to board games, allowing players to strategically bid and make decisions based on their in-game goals and resources.

Here are the top 10 games that feature auction bidding mechanics, according to various board game rankings:

  1. Power Grid
  2. The Settlers of Catan
  3. Bohnanza
  4. Modern Art
  5. Puerto Rico
  6. Taj Mahal
  7. Ra
  8. High Society
  9. Chicago Express
  10. Lancaster

Auction and bidding mechanics can vary in many ways in board games, some of the variations include:


English auction: Players take turns bidding on an item until all but one player has dropped out. The highest bidder wins the item and pays the price they bid.


Dutch auction: The price of an item starts high and gradually decreases until a player decides to buy it.


Sealed Bid Auction: Players submit a bid without knowing the bids of other players. The highest bidder wins the item.


Turn Order Until Pass: Players take turns bidding on an item until all but one player has passed. The last player to bid wins the item.


Fixed Placement Auction: Players place workers or tokens on specific spots or items to claim them. The first player to place a worker on an item wins it.


Multiple Lot Auction: Players bid on multiple items at the same time, either one at a time or all at once.


Dexterity Auction: Players use physical skill to claim items, such as stacking blocks or flipping coins.


Compensation Auction: Players bid on items with the understanding that they may receive compensation if they don’t win.


Dutch Priority Auction: Similar to a Dutch auction, but players have the option to buy items at any point during the auction at the current price.


One specific example of an auction bidding mechanic in a popular board game is in the game Puerto Rico. In this game, players take turns selecting and performing various roles, such as Colonist, Trader, Builder, Prospector, Mayor, or Craftsman. 

One of the roles is the Auctioneer, where players can bid on an available building to construct. The player who bids the highest amount of gold coins gets to construct the building and add it to their player board. The other players then receive the gold coins they bid, but do not construct the building.